Monday, April 18, 2011

Who's Your Favorite Conservative Science Fiction Author?

As a conservative, I find it almost impossible to stomach some of the leftist nonsense that comes out of the science fiction genre.  I grew up on sci-fi as a kid, but was lucky to have found a wide range of political ideology in what I read.  Some rang true to what I had learned in history and sociology (often in spite of my history and sociology teachers).  Some did not.  I remember being drawn to elements in science fiction that seem to be a recurring theme - even in the works of writers who probably see themselves as ardent progressives. Liberty and freedom of the individual is one of these themes and the only way to pit liberty and freedom against an adversary is to pit it against a believable one.

What you get are sorely confused people writing about the heroic, rugged individualist fighting against the evil corporate dominated governments, insect hive minded aliens, brutal tyrants and evil forces bent on world domination. And yet, how many of them go out and vote for political parties that would increase the size power and intrusiveness of government? Sci-fi writers flirt constantly with the idea of a government by the wise (and let's face it most sci-fi writers consider themselves among the "wise"). Such a government, if managed by the proper folk, the pure nobles, the great wizards or wise men or sorceresses, would manage everything so all the regular people would be fat and happy and satisfied with their lot in life.

But it never really works that way does it? 

We never can quite get away from the obvious defects of such a system. You'd have had to be blind not to have seen the horrors of unfettered communism once the Iron Curtain collapsed in the late 80s.  Turns out communism was far worse than we ever knew.  Even the Chinese have realized the problems with communism and are moving away from it, retaining the authoritarian bits, of course. The Chinese always preferred their governments authoritarian for some reason.  I suspect preserving an authoritarian government machinery has always been the point of progressivism, socialism and communism anyway. Many SF authors point out this problem that authority has in co-existing with freedom in their novels, movies and stories - sometimes unwittingly. That's why you get leftist writers writing the most damning things about big governments.

My top ten favorite SF authors whose works ring true for me include:
  1. Poul Anderson:  Anderson is not only a scientist, but a student of history as well. His future cultures recognize the problems with bureaucracies, corporate or government and his stories deal with the impact of such repressive societies on men and women with brains, creativity and a love of freedom. The man almost preaches sometimes. He produced a steady stream of characters like notorious trader to the stars, Nicholas Van Rinjh, Dominic Flandry, David Falkyn and a host of others provide an almost endless stream of reading - the man was a voracious writer. If you're a conservative/libertarian like me, you'll find yourself nodding in agreement as you read his finely crafted stories that weave history, anthropology, sociology and science into a seamless whole. 
  2. Orson Scott Card: Orson sits on the outside of mainstream science fiction. A Mormon like Glenn Beck, Card is not shy about his political opinions. His masterpiece, "Ender's Game" is on the commandant of the Marine Corps' recommended reading list for Marine officers. While, I'm not particularly a fan of his fantasy work, his hard science fiction is a delight and I hope he never runs out of Ender sequels.
  3. Dr. Jerry Pournelle:  You probably know this very intelligent man from his work with Larry Niven, but he has quite a few novels of his own. He, like Poul Anderson, believes that space exploration is the royal road to freedom for man and has long promoted the idea that if we focus on the stars, it will reduce the problems we have here. He opposed the Gulf Wars saying that if we spent the money developing nuclear and other energy technologies we could tell the Arabs to go drink their own oil and not have to meddle with them.  His SF work will not make you cringe.
  4. C.S. Lewis:  A surprising number of people don't know that Lewis wrote a science fantasy trilogy. The books are "Out of the Silent Planet", "Perelandra" and "That Hideous Strength". His fantasy series "The Chronicles of Narnia" have been made into a series of movies. Lewis was a firm opponent of socialism and wrote several fiery condemnations of the creeping "nanny state" in Britain. His SF work, while implausible scientifically given what we now know about Mars and Venus, is a wonderful philosophical treatise on the consequences of the lust for power.  His very funny "Screwtape Letters" is a brilliant take on demons and the devil. 
  5. Michael Flynn:  I got into Flynn after stumbling on his first book, "Firestar". Firestar depicts an independent woman, a corporate magnate, who has a childhood fear of an asteroid striking the Earth and wants to see a system put in place to protect the planet. Tired of waiting for a foot-dragging government to do things, she starts her own school system that trains up kids to be astronauts and scientists in her own privately funded space program. In this, Flynn anticipated the power of private commercial space companies to innovate their way to space out in front of plodding government sponsored space efforts.  The series definitely leans conservative in its disdain for bureaucracies. Whatever political views Flynn may espouse privately, he gets me as a reader for that.
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien:  While more strictly a fantasy than a science fiction writer, I include him on the principle that if the Syfy Channel can show horror movies and wrestling matches, I can include Tolkien in this list. I like that, while his novels are full of kings and nobles, its the small fry that count. Big powerful forces in his novel, when they are doing as they should be doing, serve to support the meek who are the ones who really make the difference in the end.
  7. Michael Crichton:  If you're looking for a smart writer, pick one that finished med school and chose to become a science fiction author. His brilliant "State of Fear" is a scathing indictment of the global warming scam that has upset more than a few of his Hollywood colleagues. We will miss his intelligent observations about science medicine and technology. I bet he had some doozies left to write.
  8. Daniel da Cruz:  Daniel didn't write a whole lot of books and he's not well know, but worth discovering. He spent most of his career as a journalist and general man about the world. In the 80s, however, he wrote one of my favorite sci-fi series of all time.  The first entitled, "The Ayes of Texas" takes place during the Carter years when the US is being sold piecemeal to the Soviets. A charismatic Texas governor and billionaire inventor join forces to lead Texas out of the union and re-establish the Republic of Texas, prompting a war with Russia. In a classic shootout, the upgraded Battleship Texas dukes it out with a Russian Fleet that attacks Houston and finishes it off in convincing Texas Navy fashion. In the second book, "Texas on the Rocks" the inventor's son brings an iceberg to Corpus Christi and supplies water to a drought-stricken US Midwest and fights off assorted villains that want to bring down the fledgling Republic of Texas. In the last book, Texas Triumphant", our hero drills a tunnel from Texas to Moscow and sets off an unusual and non-lethal bomb that destroys the Soviet Union once and for all. The solution that wins the war is one of the most original weapons of war I've ever heard of. If da Cruz had written nothing else, these books set him as one of my favorites in the SF genre.  Every Texan should own the set.
  9. Robert A. Heinlein:   It's fascinating to me that one of the most hard-shell conservative sci-fi writers of all time is also responsible for the science fiction book that was embraced most warmly by the hippie counter-culture of the 60's - "Stranger in a Strange Land".  One of the "Big Three" of science fiction along with Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov, Heinlein was one of the first to push the genre into the mainstream.  Heinlein's work addressed the themes of individual liberty, self reliance and the obligation individuals owe their societies.  He also wrote controversial works that examined the influence of organized religion on culture and government and the repression of nonconformist thought by governments and societies.  Because he touched on so many themes, it was difficult to pin down exactly what his views were politically sometimes.  His very conservative 1959 book "Starship Troopers" examines an interstellar military at war. Troopers infuriated the left when it was written. The leftists finally took a little revenge in 1997's movie version of the book.  The movie converted Heinlein's more likeable and humane Earth government into a white-people-only cartoonish Facist state; something it never was in the books.    
  10. Frank Herbert -  Best known for his seminal series "Dune", Frank Herbert viewed his
    troubling future universe through definitely conservative eyes. His heroes battle the system and it's collection of nobles, managers, emperors and unions with a surprisingly altruistic disdain for inherited titles and blood rights. Herbert shows us a universe governed by hereditary insiders and challenged by a series of messianic heroes, who mange to give the governing elites more than one black eye in the process. He's not the first sci-fi author to challenge the kind of unrealistic progressive pipe dream universes those dreamed up by the later Star Trek guys. By the way, has anyone ever figured out how The Federation pays its Star Fleet personnel and do they all make the same amount or does everybody just use that machine that makes coffee to make anything they want.  Herbert had it right. It takes a messiah to break up a hegemony of "leaders" intent on managing everyone's lives for their own fun and profit. He had it exactly right!
Now it's your turn. Leave a comment below telling us a sci-fi author that warmed the cockles of your conservative heart. I'm looking for new reading material.

Tom King